Many employers these days have timekeeping systems that deduct time (e.g. thirty minutes) for lunch on a daily basis. There is an inherent danger in doing this, as employees may claim that they worked through lunch and therefore should be paid. This is evidenced in yet another settlement in such an action, a settlement that totals $1.5 million. The case is entitled Magpayo v. Advocate Health and Hospitals Corp. and was filed in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois.
The collective action involved hundreds of emergency room nurses. This class submitted papers to a federal Judge asking approval of the settlement, which will include 262 ER Nurses. The motion noted that the employer would have continued to litigate and there were risks, for the plaintiffs, in maintaining the suit.
The motion stated that “the traditional means for handling wage claims like those at issue here — individual litigation — would unduly tax the court system, require a massive expenditure of public and private resources and, given the relatively small value of the claims of the individual class members, would be impracticable. The proposed settlement, therefore, is the best vehicle for class members to receive the relief to which they are entitled in a prompt and efficient manner.”
As stated above, the theory of the case was worked lunch breaks were going unpaid because of the automatic deductions. The lead plaintiff also claimed the Hospital did not pay for overtime when more than forty hours were worked and that she had to work after she clocked out. The class had been certified under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and as a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The plaintiffs wanted to settle because there was a risk the class could be decertified and greater expense would be incurred. The motion noted that by asserting that “additional litigation would only serve to increase the expenses incurred without reducing the risks facing class members.” The layers will receive $600,000 in fees.
Automatic lunch deduction systems are legal but there must be a reporting mechanism, a fail-safe mechanism, for when employees do work through lunch (or claim they do). The employee is trained to fill out a form, submit it to the supervisor for approval, and payment. Then, the employer is protected and the employee properly paid for a true missed lunch break.
Sounds simple, yet these suits keep happening?